Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Question of Redemption

I've been considering lately, trying to have coffee with my pastor and discussing my dilemma with the church . . . actually his church specifically. I’ve talked about this many times in this blog that me, the somewhat post-Evangelical, trying to fit into an evangelical church is like the proverbial square peg in the round hole.

My wife accuses me of putting thoughts into other people’s minds and maybe that is true. But I’ve had this imaginary conversation with the pastor many times. I think I know how the conversation would go, and that’s not just conjecture, but based on previous conversations with him over coffee . . . or pizza. Maybe I’m putting words in his mouth, but I think they are the words that he would really speak.

It is really hard to put into simple terms my position (and the position of many of us in this same quasi-not evangelical-but believer category). Our pastor, like many evangelicals I’ve tried talking to (see my previous posts about why it is hard to speak to an evangelical) usually have on their “liberal” radar. Within a few words spoken by me I’m sure the radar will be setting off alarms. But theologically, I am quite conservative, while socially, I may be liberal and that’s where the confusion begins.

As I boil it down I think it comes to my perspective on redemption. It was the organization LAbri (which I found as a breath of fresh air while suffocating under the blanket of evangelicalism) that first introduced me to the concept of the redemption of all of creation.

As a dualistic evangelical, redemption, like everything else, only applies to the spiritual . . . the saving of souls (and all that is involved with that). However, in my perspective of redemption, it covers the material as well.

In practical terms, we live in a fallen, broken world. God had chosen us, people created in his image to bring redemption to this broken world. While He desires everyone to be redeemed spiritually that’s not the whole picture. In redeeming our physical bodies, nature, culture and everything else, He can use the church, but He can use those (whom evangelicals would consider as nasty) non-Christians as well.

So, besides the traditional view of the gospel, redemption, in my opinion, also would include:

Any beautiful art

Beautiful music (Mozart was a redeemer of sound/noise while he probability was not redeemed himself spiritually. But like I said, God can use the church and those outside the Church).

Not only food for the hungry but great tasting food for even those with plenty.

Physical healing. I work in chronic pain disorders and I image a huge pile of physical suffering that I, hopefully, have been able to remove from my patients as an act of redemption.

Picking up liter.

Fixing up a broken down old house.

Making a garden.

Writing a wonderful book (even by non-Christian authors)


I could go on and on. That’s why I don’t measure a presidential candidate on one or two issues, but the entire package of bringing redemption to the world.

But this language sets off the liberal alarms among my evangelical friends. But once again, theologically I believe virtually everything that Luther believed. I respect those who are Christian and don’t believe Luther.

12 comments:

Trevor Morgan said...

Have you read any N.T. Wright? I've been finding him a profoundly useful author recently - I'm currently about two thirds of the way through 'Surprised by Hope.' Like you, he talks about God's goal for creation being restoration and redemption, not replacement, and like you he tackles the Platonic dualism that falsely sets the spiritual in opposition to the physical.

(btw, sorry I never got any further reviewing your manuscript! Life kept getting in the way - I still think that your exploration of dualism is a very important one.)

Justin said...

I may be showing my age (or at very least lower tastes), but I was once asked why I admired the rock band Van Halen [given their worldliness]. I responded that I believe Eddie Van Halen's talent with a guitar and music was a gift from God... and that even if he himself did not recognize that and thank God for it, I could, and would.

Jaimie said...

One thing often told to me growing up was how God was going to burn the world up at the end of time and make a new one. I think this is one reason many people think the physical realm is unable to be redeemed. Only recreated.

Hope T. said...

Thomas Howard's chapter on the incarnation in his book "Evangelical is Not Enough" was a great read. I've noticed that churches tend to gloss over the incarnation (even at Christmastime!) and head straight to the cross. That lack of attention to something which I would consider the very heart of Christianity might be one of the contributing factors in the dualism we see.

MJ said...

N.T. Wright has been suggested to me many times and I still haven't got his books. But I hope to.

MJ said...

I too missed out on a lot of beautiful things, growing up in the Bible belt and becoming an Evangelical at age 17. We practiced a social dualism . . . if the person/artist wasn't blatanly preaching Jesus, then they were garbage. So no watching of non-Christian movies, non-Christian music etc.

I've never felt so close to God as I have after walking through the Louvre or listening to a piece of classical music performed by a great orchestra . . .and now, for the first time, I am working my way through the best English novels of all time. I deeply enjoy reading novel which discuss topics that are so real to human existence, but too dark to ever have been written by any author that you would fine in a Christian bookstore.

MJ said...

Find . . . not fine (wish I could edit comments).

Brian said...

It's funny but I think of myself as actually more conservative(in regards to Scripture) than many of my Evangelical friends. I may be fudging the definition a little, but what I mean by "conservative" is not reading into or beyond what scripture was intended to communicate. But to be theologically "conservative" in Evangelical circles you need to able to read scripture and find :

- Young Earth Creationism
- Personal messages from God in remote verses
- America as a blessed nation
- A series of propositions

Doesn't seem very conservative to me

MJ said...

Brian I totally agree with you. Like our very evangelical elder who always ends the discussion by saying "God said it, I believe it and that settles it." I want so much to say, but I don't make up stuff like you do, I don't place the evangelical cultural mores above scripture because I hold scripture to too have of level to be messing with it like that.

adventuresinmercy said...

Great post.

My very conservative friends sometimes see me as a liberal. The funny thing is that all my liberals think of me as a conservative.

I know exactly what you mean about the "liberal radar" in the evangelical world. I hate that dang thing. But I do understand it. I used to have one, and it was set on high. It's important, you know, when it's your job to protect the flock from the enemy (especially when the enemy is anyone who thinks outside the little box you live in).

adventuresinmercy said...

Great post.

My very conservative friends sometimes see me as a liberal. The funny thing is that all my liberals think of me as a conservative.

I know exactly what you mean about the "liberal radar" in the evangelical world. I hate that dang thing. But I do understand it. I used to have one, and it was set on high. It's important, you know, when it's your job to protect the flock from the enemy (especially when the enemy is anyone who thinks outside the little box you live in).

MJ said...

Here is the great irony. I don't mean to pick on my wife, but I know her best and she is representative of many women in our church.

Chuck, our very conservative elder who keeps saying things that imply I'm not a true believer because I don't believe in a 6,000 year old earth, that I like art and I send my kids to secular universities and I don't care for old hymns. However he loves my wife and thinks she is a wonderful Christian woman. ( I think he wonders to himself why she is married to a jerk like me.)

Denise really and honestly loves Sunday morning church. She does for many reasons, most of them has to do with the way she was raised in a Lutheran church.

So Denise goes to all the programs (that she can when she is not working) and I struggle to go. Because of my struggle, I come across as a liberal or just unspiritual.

However, theologically I think I am far more conservative than Denise. She doesn't read Paul because she thinks he is a sexist. We've had friends sit around and describe a very pantheistic paradigm of world and she can see things their way while I'm scratching my head and saying "This is panthesim! This has nothing to do with the Judo-Christian narrative."

I honestly think, that if I changed my personal beliefs and started meditating in the woods to mother-earth, pulling energy from crystals and believing that I am a reincarnated Egyptian Prince . . . BUT that I love gospel music and believe that the earth is 6,000 years old . . . that Chuck would embrace me with open arms.